British Scene: Gavin Rees vs Anthony Crolla Preview

USA TODAY Sports

Gavin Rees and Anthony Crolla headline this Saturday’s Sky show, a show with a deep if not exactly breathtaking undercard. Whilst the super-middleweight clash between Paul Smith and Tony Dodson is the only title fight on the bill, it’s the bout between Crolla and Rees that catches the eye.

Despite the fact Crolla is coming into the fight off the back of a draw and Rees a loss, the fight is essentially a world title eliminator, with the winner in line to face Ricky Burns in early December. With a title shot and a big payday as an incentive, we can expect to see the best of both fighters.

Rees is the more experienced of the two and has fought at a higher level. The only two defeats on the Welshman’s record have come in world title bouts - firstly when he lost his light-welterweight world title to Andriy Kotelnik, secondly when he was stopped by Adrien Broner earlier this year. This will be Rees’ first fight since his loss against Broner, where he was dropped twice on route to a fifth round stoppage. It was the first time in Rees’ career where he’d been completely outboxed, out-brawled and hurt. It’ll be interesting to see what effect, if any, that type of defeat will have on Rees.

Whilst Crolla hasn’t fought at world level before, he’s an experienced domestic level fighter and has only ever lost in close fights, most notably against Gary Sykes and Derry Mathews, who he drew with last time out in a rematch of their 2012 thriller. Crolla has been in a number of crowd pleasing bouts in his career, his willingness to get into a toe-to-toe battle sometimes overriding the more sensible approach of using his boxing nous.

Usually Crolla is better suited to box and move tactics than brawling; he has a lovely jab when he uses it but forgets to utilize it when he gets dragged into a war. It’ll be interesting to see who wins the battle of the jabs on Saturday night. Whilst Crolla holds a significant reach advantage over Rees, the Welshman also possesses a great jab, a very quick jab that’s thrown at a slightly upwards angle. It’s not hard to envisage the longer armed Crolla being beaten to the punch by the speedy and well-timed jabs of Rees.

I can see the fight turning into a war at some point. If Crolla is outboxing Rees early I can see the Welshman getting close and dragging Crolla into a battle. If Rees is outboxing Crolla then I can see the Mancunian biting on his gum shield and deciding to go to war. Either way, it’s going to make good viewing for the fans.

Neither man is a big puncher so it’d be a surprise if there’s an early stoppage, although Rees seems to hit a touch harder than his record suggests. Rees also possesses a rock solid chin and should be able to take everything Crolla can dish out. Crolla’s not chinny either but has shown he can be hurt in the past, although one senses if a stoppage was to happen it’d be through an accumulation of shots from Rees as opposed to a one shot type of knockout.

Personally, I can see the fight going the distance, with Rees overcoming a late and gallant effort from an outgunned Crolla to win comfortably on the cards.

e-mail Dave Oakes

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